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Archive for the ‘Holiday Cheer’ Category

You can hear it so many times that it excites you about as much as the side of a cereal box. Maybe less. Especially if you’ve grown up with it all—those carols and those words. Sunday school, church, Awana, VBS.

Again, and again you hear about the baby born. His miracles. The cross. Until you stop hearing at all. Or maybe you hear, but you’ve lost the wonder. The awe. The faith. 

Maybe you’ve done better than I at keeping sight of “the real meaning of Christmas.”

Then again, maybe not. 

Maybe, like me, you really wanted to show your children the real miracle that Christmas celebrates, but with all your Pinterest surfing, food list making, and out-of-town-company preparing, you forgot. 

For me this holiday season, the truth has crept in gradually, like the slow approach of a faintly burning light in the dark. 

This year has been so difficult, and I’ve felt stretched in so many ways…

Spent the first two months out of the country in Scotland for the birth of Little Bear (our fourth boy and last child; a lump to swallow by itself), and then had to transition to life back in the States. Battled fatigue as I’ve been woken by baby every night for the past twelve months. Struggled to balance my role as wife, mother to four rambunctious boys, writer, cook, organizer of too much stuff, chauffer, friend, and homeschooling mum. Took in a friend’s daughter for the summer. Opened our home to friends—a family of six—for seven weeks while they sought out a new home. Made do with chaos while we put on a small extension to our home. Helped more than one person move house. Pounded at Heaven’s doors for the souls of those yet lost.

Looking back on the four years since immigrating back to the States, it’s not hard to see the other challenges and losses we’ve encountered, like the burglary to our home three years back.

And in one way I feel shattered by it all. Bedraggled. Weary both body and soul.

In another, the shadowy places we’ve trudged through in the past few years have only made the greatest gift—the one believers in Christ Jesus claim to celebrate at Christmas—shine like never before.

For his gift—the gift of eternal life through belief in the life, death, and resurrection of God’s only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Himself God—is one that can neither be lost, stolen, damaged, outgrown, or in any way taken away. Such a gift!

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This is the gift I will be sharing with my children and other family members on Christmas, and there is a very simple way you can do it, too, with items you most likely already have in your house.

  1. Wrap up five items in Christmas paper – something broken (a toy?), something outgrown (baby clothes?), an empty wallet or purse, and a figurine of baby Jesus (or picture of the cross), and a heart (a Christmas ornament?).

  2. Gather your family round and let them open the parcels one by one, explaining the meaning of each as you go along, using the suggestions below . . .

  3. For the broken item – Is this toy new or old? Have you ever had anything break? Things don’t last forever, do they? They can stop working or break.

  4. For the outgrown item – Would this fit anyone in the room? Clothes don’t last forever, do they? We can outgrow our clothes, or they can get holes in them and wear out.

  5. For the wallet – Look inside the pockets. What has happened to the money? Has it been stolen? Spent? Lost? Money doesn’t last forever, does it? It can be spent, stolen, or lost.

  6. For the Baby Jesus – Who does this figurine represent? Did he stay a baby or grow up to be a man? Yes, he grew up to be a man and died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins.

  7. For the heart – What is this? Yes, a heart that represents the love of God. If you believe in your heart that God died on the cross for your sins and that he was raised again back to life, then God gives you the gift of eternal life to be with him and others who loves him forever. No one can take that gift away from you. It is the only thing that can never be lost, stolen, broken, or taken away from you by anyone.

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Merry Christmas to you all! 

~ Avonlea 

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A rainbow is a promise. This rainbow appeared over the sea on Christmas day while we opened our gifts. May 2015 be a year where each one of you experiences the trustworthiness of God’s promises and feels his presence going with you.

Happy New Year!
Avonlea x

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 I sit and hold him,

cradled warm and snug against my chest.

Trace with my eyes the curve of his ear.

Run my finger along the plump softness of his cheek.

My son. My baby. My last.

A smile tugs at his lips.

“He’s dreaming of angels,” they say here in Scotland,

of fluttery newborn smiles.

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In the background the voices of the boys choir of Kings College Cambridge

pour out The Holly and the Ivy,

one of my favourites, though I never knew it till I came here.

And I thought I’d have girls. Lots of them, born in the summer.

And yet this is the third Christmas I’ve sat with a newborn, a son,

(the Professor came in the spring)

wondering at this new life given to my care,

as I also wonder about the other baby,

whose birth we celebrate this time of year.

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What brings more wonder than a baby,

a new life?

Nothing.

Nothing at all, I would say,

except the life of that baby,

the one born in a stable,

who lived not only his life,

but because of his God and man-ness

is able to know intimately the minute details of the lives of each one of us.

A baby. A man. But also God.

A God who sees.

A God who knows.

A God who cares.

Cares enough to live among his creation,

and here face death

to give each of us the chance

to live again.

Imagine!

A new world, a new life,

through him.

Imagine.

Your life,

mine,

made new through him.

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I’ll have plenty of time to drink it all in tomorrow.

The carols, the mince pies, the sweetness of my newborn’s breath,

and the wonder of the birth of my Saviour.

But you’ve been kept waiting,

and so let me introduce him to you,

my newest wee manie.

We’ve called him Charles.

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Wishing a merry,

the VERY merriest,

of Christmases to you.

And enjoy this gift of music from The Piano Guys.

If you haven’t ever heard them then you really, truly must.

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Thankful for being here, in the midst of this Scottish adventure, with surprises and blessings waiting at every turn–if I open my eyes to see. Thankful for your thoughts, ideas, encouragement, dear readers and friends both near and far. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

x Avonlea 

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Today began with so much sameness.

So much of what I faced yesterday.

Last week.

And a thousand days before. 

A crying baby and an aching back broke my sleep,

made it hard to peel back the covers and start the day, 

especially when I thought I knew

just what was coming. 

As I got ready,

stood in the bathroom and smeared cream over my face,

the murky light that crept in from the windows

seemed just like the greyness I felt inside, 

that feeling that I really didn’t want to “do” today, 

that feeling of longing for something

though I didn’t know quite what. 

And then it all happened

just like I feared. 

I realized we were out of yogurt,

and milk, 

and eggs, 

and bread, too. 

And so as I scrambled to make a smoothie with our solitary banana and some berries, 

spread peanut butter over an apple I’d sliced,

it seemed they were all underneath me at once, 

my wee men, 

one complaining about the breakfast, 

one wanting to help, 

the wee-est one digging his fat fingers into my leg and hollering to be picked up. 

And I did think, for that chaotic hour, 

“is this really all there is?”

And I knew that if it was

then I really couldn’t bear it,

and the day would not go well. 

And any sacredness there, any beauty,

in my home, in our lives,

well I didn’t really see it

at all. 

We didn’t stick around. 

I decided we needed out.

Sometimes we all just do. 

And it was cold and grey when we piled into the car,

headed for the museum. 

But when we returned

just a few hours later

the grass was two shades greener 

and the air like a greenhouse of hazy warm light. 

And as we shed our wellies and jackets in the mudroom

I checked my tomato seeds and found a few new sprouts. 

All that warmth and light had done them good. 

Warmth,

and light, 

it does us good, too. 

And for me,

for a follower of Jesus Christ, 

that word is just

everything. 

For light can banish

not only the greyness of sameness and uncertainty, 

but the blackness of tragedy

and every darkest fear. 

And yes, sometimes life is a jumble, 

and you’re waiting,

and you’re feeling how much you really need 

to get it right. 

But sometimes that’s when God is calling

though it can be so hard to see. 

Not just in the tragedy, in the blackness, 

but in the grey. 

And though the waiting is uncomfortable

and we all want answers now, 

the greyness is the time to dig in deeper, 

listen longer, 

listen sharper, 

and persevere. 

Run.

 

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus. 

Hebrews 12:1-2

Run to Jesus. 

Like he never stops running

after you. 

 

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There was a long list of bad this Christmas.

Like the enormous branch out back that fell and crushed my poor lilac bush. The ice storm came (that was before the arctic vortex and heaps of snow), and I guess that big old tree got a little too burdened down. Couldn’t take the stress. Couldn’t take the weight. So down it came.

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The rest of our Christmas, well it was mostly the same. A little too much heaviness to bear.

Plenty of decorating and buying and wrapping and baking and carol playing and even praying beforehand, all meant to create the perfect day, but sometimes all the planning in the world will still leave you with a mess.

Sometimes you plan but get it all so wrong.

Sometimes you plan but it’s out of your control.

That ice again, lovely as it was, had it’s wicked way.

Treacherous driving conditions.

Night out with the girls for a chance to laugh and de-stress? Canceled.

Many thousands without heat or power. 

Christmas Eve service at church? Canceled, too.

Mum hosting Christmas dinner? Nope. With two days to plan, it’s going to be me.

But there was more . . .

A mix-up of the name-drawing.

A gift for everyone under the tree? Well, not quite.  

Keys locked in a running car.

Tired children put to bed on time? Think again.

A tummy bug moving slowly through the house till we all had our turn.

All of us there round the Christmas table, feeling right as rain? No, not that either.

Sometimes you plan but get it all so wrong.

Sometimes you plan but it’s out of your control.

Yet all this, all this we could have easily born with a nervous laugh and with making due. All this we could have born if only a frazzled mix of folks from different parts of the country, different parts of the globe, hadn’t all been tossed together, till from our botched arrangements surfaced pain, sadness, regret from weeks, months, years past.

Like my lilac bushes, it seems we, too, can be frail.

Tender.

Like the flowers. Like the grass.

Tender,

so that when love and fear come together,

like with family and with friends,

we feel an aching in our hearts

and a burden just too much to bear.

Too much to bear alone.

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And it all seemed such a sham. The presents and the tree. The music. All the talk of joy and peace.

Because sometimes you plan but it’s out of your control.

And sometimes you plan, but there’s something deeper, something realer, that you missed.

All our shattered plans for Christmas or for life, they can really shake our souls, leave us wondering how to hope.

How to hope, or why.

Leave us wondering if the New Year will bring us more of just the same. And if you’re anything like me then you’re tempted to whisk out a sheet of paper and start making lists, ask yourself what went wrong, and start planning so the future will be better.

As if we could fix ourselves, fix our families, with a list.

The only thing is, sometimes you plan but get it all so wrong.

Sometimes you plan but it’s out of your control.

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New Year’s resolutions? Yes, I’ve got them. Organized drawers, eating kale, and the like.

But this year what I’m planning is complete surrender.

Submission like I’ve never known.

All I have, all I am, all I dream, brought to the feet of the only One who will never get it wrong and never let me down.

Because what my family, what my world, what I am missing is more of Jesus.

And because it’s only is His will that we can ever truly be free.

I’m taking His list. Making it mine. Turning my life right upside down.

And I’m starting with the Word.

Because not only is the Word with God, but the Word IS God. (John 1:1).

And it’s living, and it’s active, and it knows me, too (Hebrews 4:12).

I’m going to see what I’ve been missing.

I’m going to learn to love and live

like Him.

This is January.

The first day of the rest of my life.

Join me as I discover.

You won’t look back.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.

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Happy Little Sigh is now on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Join me there?

 

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The darkest day.

I always remember.

The least sunshine. The least light.

Winter solstice.

December 21st.

And after this, I’m counting minutes–approximately two each day–until the hours stretch to bring the golden light of the summer sun. But for now, when I feel more than a little sorry for those Narnians and their ever winter never Christmas. When even the icicles hanging outside the kitchen window, and the layer of ice coating everything else, when even they can’t shine, my brain can feel as cloudy as this murky winter light.

Because it’s been a year since I slept right through the night. An entire year of being just a bit too tired. The Admiral is a happy baby, but teething didn’t suit him well, and his habits are bad. Waking every few hours. A snack and cuddle, and if I’m lucky, a sleepy smile for my troubles. And so mornings start later than I’d like.  A little voice, a little cry, The General’s black olive eyes blinking into mine from the side of my bed, and the day begins.

Still, sometimes I see it–the beauty of eternity that begins today. These little souls, my little men, and the treasure that they are.

Other days I hit the floor running,

some crazy dance from room to room,

glancing occasionally at the clock,

and imaging the utter shock

my friends would feel if they ever stopped

and saw the state of this house.

On those days I find myself, at least once,

pausing,

the whirlwind of Cheerios and bibs and Lego and foam swords  and three little men swirling all around me, a now cold cup of tea in my hand,

wondering,

what oh, what is going on?

There must be something, something I’m missing,

or it wouldn’t be

like this.

But what?

A little sleep, to be sure.

An intentional effort to count blessings

and sing praise

and speak truth.

Yes.

All that.

All that, and just a little more time

with Jesus.

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Because though I have 2 million distractions, though the crumbs, and the laundry, and the children cry out to my clouded, foggy, weary brain, though the weather is bleak, and though I carry sorrows and disappointments in the deepest chambers of my heart,

none of it

none of it

should be an excuse.

An excuse to raise my voice or declare my dissatisfaction or remain in a dark, murky mood.

Because eternity begins today.

Our eternity began the day we were born.

And for those of us who love Jesus

that means counting those blessings,

speaking those truths,

and no matter how we’re feeling,

choosing to live like Christ.

ha

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The new year is coming.

Isn’t that a shock?

And what sort of year, I wonder, is it going to be?

I have my hopes and have my dreams,

but I realize that what I need

more than anything

is to spend more time with The Word.

With Jesus.

Pouring over His commands,

reading and re-reading his life

until His words and His ways and His will,

which are all Him,

become more of who I am, too.

For there is no better to know what we’re missing.

There is no better way to bring into the darkness of our lives and minds

His perfect light

than to live and love like Jesus.

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As you light this final candle for Advent, remember not just the manger but the cross. The purpose of Christ’s arrival on our planet. The depth of His LOVE.

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For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.   ~ John3:16

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Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine
Love was born at Christmas
Star and angels gave the sign.

Happy Little Sigh is now on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Join me there?

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